Photo courtesy of Clint Kelley, Globe Hotshots

I encountered Spartan Race on a social media site where the banner link showed up on the right hand side. I’d never heard of Spartan Race, neither had my friends. I am a Firefighter on an IHC (Hotshot) crew. I felt confident and I registered with three months to train for the AZ Spartan Super.

Ten days from the race I found myself lying on the floor of my room wondering how someone could feel so bad without being dead. Food and water hit my stomach and reversed direction and I spent eight days trying every medical and holistic remedy known to man to beat the flu. Two days until race day and I felt pretty good but I was experiencing full body cramping. I hydrated as best as I could and when race day arrived I felt good. I wasn’t 100% and I knew that the 10 days being sick would take their toll but I had a team that I was not going to disappoint and I WANTED this bad.

The event was crazy. I’d never seen anything like it. Music blaring, the announcer shouting encouragement and challenges, and in the middle stood the cargo net climb and five other obstacles. I’d never seen so many motivated and determined people before. There was a definite air of intensity but it was coupled with a feeling of community; a oneness. My team lined up at the rear of the starting area and the excitement quickly dispersed every thought of the flu and the last ten days. It was impossible to keep still. When our heat surged forward we moved slowly at first but it was at the first obstacle that we scrambled passed several groups and began to make our way towards the front. I was in my element and I was having fun; pure joyful fun that made me smile. I loved jumping over walls and slogging through the mud. As the race progressed, my friend paced me until we hit the monkey bars where I started feeling a cramp in my calves. I deliberately slowed down to try and conserve my energy and deal with the cramping. By the time I got to the tire flip I was cramping in my calves and hamstrings. I nailed the tire flip, rang the bell on the rope climb, and failed the spear throw. 30 burpees and the cramping hit every leg muscle. I was starting to use a morphed jog/hobble with periodic stops to stretch cramping muscles. By the time I waded in the canal, the cramping had moved to the forearms and abdomen. 30 more burpees at the balance beams. I wanted to die. I slipped and fell into the canal before the Hercules Hoist and my entire body cramped up. I laid partially submerged in the water, body seized up in cramps.

A volunteer wearing a blue medal tried to motivate me, but seeing that I was in pain, he told me “You can make it, man. It’s only a mile left.”

I thought about quitting. I thought about telling this young man, “I quit.” But that medal. That medal was right in front of my face and it wasn’t even wanting the medal but wanting what that medal stood for that helped me motivate myself to get up and keep going. The cargo net was a challenge. I seized up again at the top and stood there with the volunteer for a few minutes as a spasms passed. I made my way down the net, made the sign of the holy cross and hobbled my way towards the gladiators who took pity on me and only hit me a little bit and not full force. I got my medal around my neck, the shirt on my shoulder and I had never eaten a more delicious banana than the one at the finish line. I immediately collapsed from another body cramp but I was aware of that medal around my neck, felt the coolness of the metal and the weight as it hung. I survived the course. Through every ounce of pain and cramp-ladened step, I finished and accomplished more than what I thought I could. I wasn’t ashamed of my desire to quit because I knew that when it came right down to it, I didn’t. And the medal proved it.

Editor’s Note: Keeyoul Cha works as a six year veteran firefighter for an IHC (Hotshot) crew based in Arizona. He is a 24 year martial art practitioner in Muay Thai/JKD and Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He has two cats.

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Read Part One HERE.

2013
At the end of 2012, prior to the Spartan Beast, I sustained a stress fracture to my right foot. I unknowingly ran the Beast thinking it was a minor injury, then went on to run my first half marathon two weeks later. After taking two months off to rehab my foot, I began training with my team (the Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners) for the Spartan Race in Georgia and getting excited about the 2013 race season!

Then I heard about the Biggest Losers Run/Walk Challenge that Spartan Race also hosted. I thought it sounded like a good idea, so I registered and was so thrilled over this chance to work with and motivate others. A set of fortuitous circumstances led up to me transferring from the Open Heat to the Elite Heat the week of the GA Spartan Race. Add yet another thrilling dimension to my Spartan experience! I was so nervous!

I thought, “What am I doing on the start line of the female Elite heat? I’m 46 years old, and I’ve never been known as an athlete?”

As I ran across the terrain and through the woods, I felt strong! I took on one obstacle after another, burpee-free! And then it happened…Somewhere in the 3rd mile, my right ankle found that random hole in a flat field, rolled, and snapped like a twig. My first thought was, “I HAVE to finish this heat and get back in time to help with the Biggest Loser Challenge.” The course volunteer asked if I wanted her to call a Medic. “No, I’m finishing this race”, I said as I heaved a sandbag over my head and walked up the hill, confident I could walk it off. I was jogging as I came back down the hill.

I finished the race in 1:15:34, ran off the course, grabbed my volunteer t-shirt and ran back on to the course to find Chris

The Fab Five

Davis and the Biggest Loser Challenge participants. I randomly attached myself to a group of ladies I wound up calling my “Fab Five” and journeyed with them throughout the course. As we approached each obstacle, I gave them instructions on how to successfully navigate through the obstacle… should they choose to do it. I was THRILLED that they chose to take on every challenge (with the exception of the rope climb). They were FEARLESS!

The Fab Five and I worked together as a team through each obstacle, over every hill, and across every mile. The bond seemed to solidify more and more as we continued on our journey, and I saw confidence exuding through the mud as the ladies proved to themselves they could do what they set their minds to. The encouragement they received from the Spartan Racers along the course bolstered their sense of determination as well! They began cheering for and encouraging the Spartans who ran past them in a show of camaraderie!

Almost to the Finish Line
As most of the time we encountered cold water, the pain of my sprained ankle was kept at bay; but I also believe the adrenaline and the endorphins were my saving grace. At the slippery wall, the only thing left between these ladies and their finisher’s medal was the wall, the mud crawl ,and the gladiators. A couple of the ladies took on the slippery wall, paying close attention to the instructions I gave them, “Keep your weight behind you, your feet in front of you, and use your hands to pull you along. I’ll be at the top to help you over.” The third, and final, lady in our group to attempt this obstacle stepped up to the wall, hesitantly saying she would “try”.

I yelled, “You’ve got this!” One of her teammates stood next to me on the back of the wall, ready to help her find her way over.  She grabbed the rope and began to climb, strong and confident. Then a look of hesitation flashed across her face. Self-doubt started to gnaw at her resolve, “I just don’t have any upper body strength.”

I yelled, “You’re halfway here! You’re doing it! You’ve got this! Keep coming!”

Another Spartan Racer was scaling the wall, and he stopped to help assist my Fab Fiver in her quest up the wall. She wanted to quit. She wanted to let go. I knew I couldn’t let that happen, so I grabbed her hand and yelled, “I’m not letting you go!” She didn’t realize at the time that I was leaning backwards. If she chose to let go, I was going to tumble off the back side of the wall. I believed in her. So did the crowd who was cheering her on! The Spartan Racer who had been behind her climbed over the wall and reached across to help us as another Spartan Racer got behind her and started pushing.

As we got her left leg over that wall, the emotions burst forth in uncontrollable sobs… it was ME who was crying! The crowd was cheering her on! Her teammates were cheering her on! So many emotions of that day all released at once as I grabbed her at the bottom of the ladder and hugged her tightly! The team laughed at the fact that I was crying!

We still had the mud crawl. I ran from the first of the team to the last, encouraging, and cheering, and redirecting! When the final one cleared the barbed wire, I had us link arms and said, “Let’s do this!” We ran through the gladiators across the finish line together! My team was THRILLED to see the blood from the scratches and scrapes! It was a personal victory for each and every one of them!

I’m still in contact with each of those ladies and have added them to my team! They are signing up for more OCR’s and are still on an incredible high from their accomplishment!

The Street Team provided this great opportunity for us to share our Spartan Spirit with our fellow athletes of the Biggest Loser Run/Walk Challenge, and for that I am grateful. That race changed me in a positive way. Yes, I sprained my ankle and tore a ligament, but I finished strong in my Elite Heat (because I had a purpose); and my team of Fab Five finished as stronger ladies because of the experience they had.

I’m 46, almost 47, and I AM A SPARTAN CHICK and STREET TEAMER! AROOOO!

Spartan isn’t just a race it’s an experience!  You’ll know at the finish line.  Sign up today. 

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by James Horgan

maslow-pyramidWhy do we Spartan?  In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a paper A Theory of human Motivation. In this he postulated the theory that became Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  At the bottom you have Physiological and Safety.  In a nutshell.  After the basic human functions are met.  After we are clothed, sheltered and fed.  After we are protected from the intrinsic dangers of weather, nature, and other people, we are free to explore other avenues of interest.  Which are the top two levels of Maslow’s hierarchal pyramid.  Self Actualization and Self Esteem.  This leaves one level in between, Love and Belonging

So why do we Spartan? 

For many it is a chance to belong, to subscribe, to participate in a group where simple participation is a badge of acceptance.  Finishing is a validation of accomplishment.  And for everyone, it is a chance to push one’s limits beyond the length of a given course or the weight of cold iron in a gym.

Cultures through the ages have had rites of passage.  An event that marks the transition from one state of development into another.  This is usually the point where a person develops that level of love and belonging.  That point where you are no longer provided for by the tribe but in fact contribute to provide for the tribe to become a tribe member.  In America, as a nation, we really don’t have a point where we recognize this transition.  Cultures and religions in our society do, but as a Nation we typically don’t.  We have markers which are recognized such as attaining a drivers license, the right to vote, or to drink.  But these are arbitrary, and set up by law.  With no real accomplishment by the individual except to attain a certain age.  

So why do we Spartan?

It fills a principle need in our lives to accomplish a goal, to have validation of that accomplishment by our peers.

A Spartan race fills one of our basic human need’s love and belonging.  To this end it frees us to explore and attain the next level of need.  Self Esteem.  For many, starting a Spartan race is a huge accomplishment.  For others finishing it is.  Still others improving over a previous time is their goal.  The sense of accomplishment is no different for any runner regardless of their personal goal.  We Spartan because there is a group of obstacles in front of us which we can see, we can manage, and we can over come.  To our left, to our right, in front of us and behind us there are other people who must accomplish the same task’s.  Regardless of gender, ignorant to age or ability, unimpressed by level of fitness; the obstacles are there.  The obstacles stand stoic and unfeeling.  They do not judge you.  They will not mock you and they will not compliment you. Wether you breeze through the obstacle or fail in your attempt the obstacle is there, you chose to meet it.  Some will succeed others will not.  Everyone will try.  In the end it is the sense of accomplishment in our attempt that fills our self esteem.  It is a well we can draw from in our daily life.  It is something that cannot be taken away, it cannot be diminished.  It cannot be cheapened or diluted by others.  At the finish line we all are deserved of the title Spartan.

The pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualization.  Becoming, who you are.  Philosophically and Theologically this can be debated as to how this is attained or even what it means.  It is the by product of challenge and the accumulation of self esteem, where we are confident to seek out new challenges to make us a better person.  We see this all the time  at Spartan race’s.  “I have never, ever done anything like this in my life! ” “It was awesome.”  ”It changed the way I look at myself”  ”I can’t wait to do another”  This list goes on. People get fit to do a race, and it becomes a habit.  They identify things in their life that are bad for them, that are destructive.  They start to notice people or activities that don’t support the positive changes they want  to make for themselves.  They gain the strength, the energy and the confidence to move forward and stay moving.  By running a Spartan race and getting involved in the tribe of Spartans people change.  Not everyone.  But most.  Not everyone is ready to make change.  Others are.  Not everyone is ready to except the challenge but everyone need’s the invitation to try. You don’t need to be the best runner, the best jumper, the best climber or the best anything.  You do need to try to be the best at being you, because being the best you is the only best you need to be.

And that is why we Spartan.

Originally posted in the Massachusetts Spartan’s Street Team Blog.

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